There is much use of the word “kingdom” in today’s fundamental circles as a substitute for the word “church.” I see a danger is this because the New Testament refers to the church as his bride (Rev. 21:9) and the body of Christ (1Cor. 12:27), but never as the kingdom of Christ. It is true that believers are described as belonging to the kingdom of his dear Son (Col. 1:13), but this is a spiritual relationship each believer enjoys the moment of his conversion.
A Messianic kingdom was promised by the Old Testament prophets. The Jewish people in the time of Christ expected their Messiah would bring that to pass. John the Baptist and Jesus Himself preached, …repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). However, Christ’s offer of His earthly kingdom was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders. Shortly before the Lord ascended back to heaven the disciples realized the kingdom had been rejected by the crucifixion of their Messiah; so they asked, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6) The Lord’s answer was simply, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:7). That answer did not deny that there would be a kingdom established on earth, but the prerogative of the timing was in God’s hand. In our Lord’s model prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Thy kingdom come… (Matt. 6:10), but that was a pattern for the Jewish disciples in that day, not a prayer for the kingdom to be realized during the church age. We now understand it to be for that future day when Christ returns as king to establish His kingdom during the millennium.
It is impossible to have a kingdom without a king, but today our Saviour is in heaven, seated at the Father’s right hand, making intercession for us (Rom.8:34; Heb. 7:25). The author of Hebrews reveals that Christ now appears in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24) and John writes, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1John 2:1). Therefore we conclude that Christ is our High Priest, our Advocate, who maintains our righteous standing before a holy God. He is not now our King, but when He returns to this earth to set up the Davidic kingdom He will be our King.
The kingdom cannot be paralleled with the church. Sixty years ago there was much talk by the Postmillennialists about “bringing in the kingdom.” They believed that in bringing sinners to the Saviour the world would become a utopia and Christ’s kingdom would be realized on this earth. However, these days are described clearly as perilous times (2 Tim. 3:1-4). We are not living in the “kingdom age,” but in the “church age.” Therefore it is unwise to refer to the church’s ministry as that of a “kingdom.” Why not call it what it is, “the church.”
Wilson Wahl is a Bob Jones University and Seminary graduate and a former pastor of independent, fundamental Baptist churches in the south and mid-west. His pastoral ministry spanned forty years. Following his retirement, he assisted forty churches in need of a pastor through his Ministry of Helps.